Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
Rep. Sander Levin (MI), the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, responded in a statement to the GOP's counter-proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
“Speaker Boehner’s letter to the President today distorts the work of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, which assumed the expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts and the continuation of the middle class tax cuts. Within that framework, House Republicans should join with Democrats in passing the Senate bill this week. Republicans remain in a state of denial. The recent election was not a status quo election but rather a validation of the President’s often-stated position on taxes. We must remain optimistic that Republicans will accept reality and not push our nation over the cliff.”
White House top spokesman Dan Pfeiffer responded late Monday afternoon to the GOP's counter-offer on the fiscal cliff. He said in a statement:
“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve. Independent analysts who have looked at plans like this one have concluded that middle class taxes will have to go up to pay for lower rates for millionaires and billionaires. While the President is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates. President Obama believes – and the American people agree – that the economy works best when it is grown from the middle out, not from the top down. Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit our nation needs.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is bracing Americans for the possibility that Washington fails to avert the so-called fiscal cliff in time, with less than a month to go.
On "Fox News Sunday," the speaker repeatedly affirmed his commitment to preventing the mix of massive tax hikes and indiscriminate spending cuts from taking effect. But he spoke with unmistakable fatalism about the prospect that the two parties will secure a deal to do so in the final month.
"There is clearly a chance," Boehner said, that no deal is struck before Jan. 1.
He scoffed at President Obama's opening bid of $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues alongside entitlement cuts and new stimulus spending, calling it "a non-serious proposal." The speaker, who hasn't proposed a counter-offer, said he was "flabbergasted" by it.
"We're nowhere, period," he said. "We're nowhere."
The remarks reflect a stalemate over increasing tax rates for the highest earners. In recent weeks, Republicans have proclaimed a willingness to raise revenue by limiting tax expenditures and loopholes but refuse to give an inch on raising rates. Obama, having handily won re-election on a plan that includes no middle class tax increases and a mix of spending cuts, is determined to let top rates return to Clinton-era levels.
The Supreme Court made no announcement Monday as to whether it will take up any same sex marriage cases next year. Challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 are among the options, and the justices will reconsider them at their next conference on December 7.
On Saturday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told a large home state crowd of activists and top political figures that he does not intend to adhere to the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge.
"I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote," he said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I don’t want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington, as to how I'm going to vote on anything."
He noted that the Norquist pledge -- which he recently spoke out against, provoking a backlash from the anti-tax lobbyist -- forbids closing tax deductions and credits unless each dollar of new revenue is used to lower rates. By that logic, Chambliss said, rolling back the ethanol tax credit (a popular idea in the South) to help pay down the debt would violate the pledge. Norquist has repeatedly affirmed that interpretation of the pledge.
”When I said I care about my country more than I do about a 20-year-old pledge, that's what I'm talking about," the senator said. "Things have changed in 20 years. We didn’t owe $17 trillion 20 years ago. We're in a different world today."
In his Saturday weekly address, President Obama urged the public to push Republicans to pass middle income tax cuts and drop their demand to also extend lower rates for the wealthy. The GOP was prepared with a response, accusing him of a "classic bait and switch."
Speaking from a factory in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, Obama said:
It’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans. And if you agree with me, then I could use your help. Let your congressman know what $2,000 means to you. Give them a call. Write them an email. Or tweet them using the hashtag “My2K.” That’s My2K.
You and your family have a lot riding on the outcome of this debate. We all do. And as citizens, we all have a say in the country we want to build – not just on election day, but every day. So make your voice heard. I promise, it makes a difference. Thanks, and have a great weekend.
Senate Republicans, in response, accused him of pulling a "classic bait and switch" by proposing an opening bid with $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues after winning re-election.
The GOP's weekly address was delivered by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.
"The President has said he wants a so-called balanced approach to solve this crisis," he said. "But what he proposed this week was a classic bait and switch on the American people—a tax increase double the size of what he campaigned on, billions of dollars in new stimulus spending and an unlimited, unchecked authority to borrow from the Chinese. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign. These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress."
Before speaking about energy at the Western Governors Association, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was asked about global warming by the local TV station KTVK.
"Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I, you know, I probably don’t believe that it’s man made," she said. "I believe that, you know, that weather elements are controlled maybe by different things."
Brewer didn't like the question. As she started walking away, she turned back toward the reporter to express her displeasure, apparently thinking the camera was off.
The Supreme Court is expected to soon dive into the battle over gay marriage.
The Court will meet on Friday to decide whether or not to consider the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act -- the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same sex marriage. It will announce next week the cases it has decided to consider, and experts see few reasons why DOMA won't be among them.
Two federal appeals courts have invalidated Section 3 of DOMA, which bars federal benefits for same sex couples, as a violation of equal protection under the Constitution. In a rare move for the executive branch, the Obama administration is pushing the Supreme Court to overturn the federal law and angling against implementing parts of it.
"The Supreme Court simply has to take a DOMA case," said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. "It's extremely rare for the Court to allow lower courts to strike down a federal law on such an important issue without weighing in."